Actor Ron Lester, who portrayed Billy Bob in the 1999 football film Varsity Blues, died Friday at a Dallas hospital following liver and kidney failure. He was 45.
Lester “passed away peacefully” while surrounded by friends and family after being taken off life support around 8:30 p.m. CST, the actor’s agent wrote in a Facebook post, NBC News reports. The actor had spent the last four months in the Dallas hospital, where his condition continued to decline.
Lester was best known for playing heavyset offensive lineman in the film Varsity Blues alongside actors James Van Der Beek, Paul Walker, Scott Caan and Jon Voight. In addition to being the film’s resident party animal (“Puke and rally!”), Lester’s character is also remembered for his struggle with repetitive concussions, a fairly prescient subplot given what would happen in the NFL in the decade that followed. Two years later, Lester somewhat reprised the Billy Bob role, this time as “Reggie Ray,” in the teen movie spoof Not Another Teen Movie starring Chris Evans.
In the year between 1999 and 2001, Lester also landed roles on Freaks & Geeks (including the pilot episode), Popular and Sabrina the Teen Witch. In 2000, as Lester’s weight crested at over 500 pounds, the actor decided to undergo gastric bypass surgery; the actor flat-lined during the procedure, Lester once told Grantland.
“Did I throw away my career to be skinny? Yes,” Lester said of his 300-pound drop after recovering from the surgery. “I wouldn’t do [the surgery] again. I would much rather have died happy, rich and kept my status and gone out on top.”
Lester’s last major role was a one-episode appearance on CSI: NY in 2005.